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Florida's Career Source Network Strives To Connect Employers And Employees As Economy Rebounds

Tom Flanigan
Jim McShane, CEO of Career Source Capital Region, listens as Apalachee Center HR Coordinator Stephanie Luckie talks about the challenge of finding qualified personnel for her organization.

Many organizations now need more workers even as those who lost jobs during the pandemic are still unemployed.

After a year of pandemic-induced joblessness, the employment pendulum is starting to swing. As more businesses get back to full operation, a growing problem is filling the available positions.
Stephanie Luckie is the human resources director for the Apalachee Center. That's a regional mental health services provider based in Tallahassee. As demand for those services has exploded - at least partly because of the pandemic - she says finding personnel to meet the demand has been a real problem.

"Qualifications, experience, it's very, very important and we've been finding it very challenging to get those positions filled."

Luckie has been working with Florida's Career Source Network. That's the state's network of two-dozen regional job service centers. She says that collaboration has borne fruit.

"Career Source has been vital to our success in getting what candidates we do obtain, they've been vital in helping us get that."

But even though the number of "Hiring" and "Help Wanted" signs in Florida is on the upswing, there are still lots of people who have trouble finding work. Tamara Lutz had more trouble than many. The former Panama City resident, coming off of a two-year stint in prison, was driven from her hometown by 2018's Hurricane Michael. She wound up in Tallahassee. Career Source Capital Region hooked her up with the Re-Fire Program, which provides restaurant training for those with felony records. Today, Lutz has a job.

"This also gave me the ability to get my own apartment and I was able to get my son back and provide a stable environment for him. I have been at Cracker Barrel since October of 2019 and have already received the highest ranking for kitchen positions. Until this month, I have walked to and from work every day. But I was able to take many steps to regain my driver license yesterday."

In its most recent statistical year, Career Source Florida President and CEO Michelle Dennard said the network has placed more than 143,000 people in jobs. Many of those positions required education and training, which Career Source helps provide.

"We can help with training opportunities for individuals. Help them align the skills they already have. Maybe they had another job that sets them up perfectly for construction, or advanced manufacturing or food service."

The whole idea, said Dennard, is to make obsolete the assertions, "There are just no jobs" or "There are just no people willing to work."

"The Career Source Florida Network can help individuals whose jobs may have been impacted by COVID-19. Or maybe they're looking for a new path and now's a great opportunity to connect with a local workforce development board who can help assess skills, let you know what positions are available in your area and help you find that career path that's right for you."